Home Energy Squad helps maximize energy efficiency in every season



The Center for Energy and the Environment (CEE) is a Twin Cities non-profit that promotes energy efficiency to strengthen the economy while improving the environment. One of the stand-out energy efficiency programs they deliver is the Home Energy Squad.

Stacy Boots Camp is the recruitment and outreach coordinator for CEE. ”So many times people only think about how to save energy in the winter, but we can show you how to save energy all year long,” Camp said.

CEE schedules more than 2,500 Home Energy Squad visits each year, with more than half of them in Minneapolis. The pre-scheduled visit takes 2.5 hours, and the homeowner must be present. A team of two technicians come to the home: one of them does a one-on-one consultation with the owner while taking inventory of products they can opt to have installed. The other conducts diagnostic testing, such as de-pressuring the home with a high power fan to test for air leaks.

Home Energy Squad 07Photo right: Longfellow resident Charlie Rieland safely holds a power strip with multiple cords. A power strip ensures that cords are not continuing to drain power unnecessarily. Wasting standby power, also called phantom load, is estimated to cost the average US household $100/year. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

CEE estimates that more than 300,000 homes in Minnesota have inadequate attic insulation, and more than 139,000 have no wall insulation at all. This represents a waste of energy for homeowners in the summer and the winter, as insulation reduces heat transfer from the outside in—as well as from the inside out.

In R-value, which is something most people have heard of, the “R” means resistance to heat transfer. Different kinds of insulation have different R-values. The higher the value, the more energy efficient the product. “At CEE,” Camp said. “we believe that the best, most environmentally friendly insulation is dense packed cellulose.”

What issues are covered in a Home Energy Squad visit? For starters, measurements of insulation in the attic and walls are taken, using an infra-red camera to see what’s inside.

A safety check is conducted on the heating system and the water heater. This is to make sure that if the homeowner improves the insulation, there’s no risk of appliances back-drafting carbon monoxide.

“We’re there to help educate homeowners,” Camp said, “but also to help them prioritize. For instance, if a customer has an old octopus furnace and little to no insulation, we help them prioritize what needs doing first, so it isn’t so overwhelming.”

She continued, “We almost never recommend replacing windows because the payback time is so long. We strongly recommend getting storm windows though; the double glass makes a huge difference in energy savings.”

Testing houses of any age is recommended from a health and safety standpoint, as well as from an energy efficiency standpoint. Camp commented that “in a newer, tighter home, there has to be some way to exchange the inside air for the outside air. Rather than installing an expensive air exchanger, we recommend an energy star rated bathroom fan that runs all the time at low speed.”

A Home Energy Squad visit is something of a hybrid between a direct install program and an energy audit. Camp said, “To get people started on the path to saving energy, we’ll put in weather stripping, programmable thermostats, high-efficiency shower heads, faucet aerators, water heater blankets and LED light bulbs—and all are included in the $100 cost of a Home Energy Squad visit.

All of the recommendations are compiled in an easy-to-use document called the Energy Fitness Plan (a visual representation of the home’s energy efficiency level). “If a homeowner has an efficiency rating of 96%,” Camp explained, “they receive an Energy Fit Home Certificate which can be used at the point of putting the home on the market for sale. This is something that is gaining popularity as people care more about energy efficiency.”

Home Energy Squad 02Photo left: Home Energy Squad techs will install LED light bulbs (pictured at right) during a home visit. LED stands for light emitting diode, and these light bulbs are the most energy efficient on the market. They use 85% less energy, are mercury-free, and are estimated to last 20 years with normal usage. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Camp added, “A visit from the Home Energy Squad is a great value, and everyone always learns things about their homes that surprise them. When surveyed, 99% of our customers say they would recommend this service to a friend. “

To schedule a visit, call 612-335-5874 or view the website at https://www.mncee.org/hes/minneapolis/. You can also learn more at CEE's website, https://www.mncee.org/.

The Home Energy Squad is underwritten by CenterPoint Energy and Excel Energy, both of which are mandated by the state of Minnesota to increase their energy efficiency by 1.5% each year. This program is one of the ways that they meet that goal.

CEE delivers the Home Energy Squad program and, as Camp underscored, “People trust us. We’re a non-profit agency, and we’ve been around for almost 40 years. We want customers to be happy with their visit, with the service they receive, and with the energy saving products that are installed. If our techs make a recommendation for air sealing or insulation work at the time of the visit, their quote will be honored by participating insulation contractors.“

She concluded, saying, “I think that more and more people have a sense of commitment to reducing their carbon foot print. Maintaining high home energy efficiency is one positive step a homeowner can take. ”


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